It’s hard not to enjoy The Social Network. It is an impressive film: crisp, beautiful, kinetic, with humor as dark as its lighting.
But Colbert was right. Women in the movie—apart from the lawyer and Erica, who sets the stage and disappears—are less prizes than they are props, buxom extras literally bussed in to fill the roles of doting groupies, vengeful sluts, or dumpy, feminist killjoys. They are foils for the male characters, who in turn are cruel or indifferent to them. (In a somewhat ironic turn of events, former Harvard President Larry Summers is perhaps the only man in the movie portrayed both as solicitous and respectful of a woman’s opinion.)
Complaining about misogyny in modern blockbuster cinema is about as productive as lamenting Facebook’s grip on our society. But what is the state of things if a film that keeps women on the outer circles of male innovation enjoys such critical acclaim; indeed, is heralded as the “defining” story of our age? What are we to do with a great film that makes women look so awful?